Thursday, 7 October 2010

WAG, ERP And A Shambles

A friend of mine from CIBC (Chartered Institute of business Consulting)  is going to a seminar soon with James Price, the Director of Transport and Strategic Regeneration at WAG speaking. We were asked if there were any questions she could put on behalf of the members. 
James Price is the author of ERP (Economic Renewal Programme) which was announced at the beginning of July by WAG as a strategy for business support in Wales and it was decided to implement it straight away. If you haven’t caught up with the back ground on ERP spend a little time looking over Prof. Dylan Jones Evans’ blog ( just search on his name and it will come up first) which lambasts the ERP from every direction. Because of his profile and the fact that he is read, if not agreed with, at WAG a number of the consultants who move around in this area have fed into it. The comments are as good as the articles very often. Also see my article '2 Paper Bags' published on 2nd August 2010 in these pages.
In quick summary, If the ERP was announced on day one with no other background one would have nodded approvingly commenting that the principles were good, sectors, focus, and all that. However it followed what went before. Neither approach is foolproof. 
Then to guillotine the old ways instantly, and leave the WAG staff embarrassed at not knowing which grant had made the cut, and what was replacing it is unbelievable ineptitude and made Wales look silly. A couple of months afterwards WAG staff neither knew what was replacing it or even if they still had a job. Much of that is still unclear now.
Now some 300 DET staff have gone there are answerphones still carrying their message ‘ to get back to you ‘.
The whole support system, deeply flawed as it was has been thrown into chaos with no sign of anything replacing it along the lines of ERP within 6 months. 
There are fundamental questions about some of the proposals I think with some of the major questions being 
  • If we are to expect ‘Repayable Grants’ – why is WAG, without any banking experience setting up an operation to monitor and control a system which is not unlike what Finance Wales does already?
  • Can WAG legally make grants that are repayable, (esentially loans) without the controls and regulations of the Banking industry?   
  • Why was the announcement ERP made with no implementation in place or planned?
  • Why were WAG staff instructed to say that it was Business as usual with no break in Finacial support for business when that is patently not the case

Unbelievable! If WAG were any sort of commercial business they would have gone out of business and deservedly so.  
Bring back the WDA! With all its faults at least we knew what you were dealing with and it had a good reputation elsewhere. 
Businesses needing advice and support still have a number of WAG financed options. I don't think they are effective in the main and they get the rest of us a bad name! If a business want practical business help they should consider a small investment which will ultimately save them time money and several degrees of sanity. With Bob Shepherd Associates they get a wide ranging expertise and an external perspective they can never have themselves. If you know anyone seriously starting out or anyone wanting to develop an existing business please point them to the web site  and ask them to make contact.          

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